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Suffolk County Child Protective Services failed to meet caseload standards in 2021

This Jan. 24, 2020 photo provided by the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office, shows New York Police Department officer Michael Valva who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 8-year-old Thomas Valva in Center Moriches, N.Y.
Suffolk County Sheriff via AP
Michael Valva and Angela Pollina

The majority of workers for Suffolk County Child Protective Services failed to meet caseload standards last year because they took on too many cases, according to a Newsday analysis.

In 2020, the county enacted a law that said Child Protective Services workers should not manage more than an average of 12 cases a month. According to Newsday data, close to 60% of caseworkers exceeded that limit in 2021, with 28% averaging 15 cases a month.

Officials blame the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many staff members to miss work, shifting their cases to other staff. Abuse and neglect reports also rose after students returned to in-person classes, where school officials are required to report their suspicions.

In response, the county Social Services Department brought on 109 staff members and 21 caseworker trainees last year.

Concerns about caseloads increased in the county after the death of Thomas Valva in January 2020. The 8-year-old Center Moriches boy died of hypothermia after he and his brother were allegedly forced to sleep in an unheated garage by their father, and their father’s ex-fiancée.

Suffolk County Child Protective Services had received several complaints against the Valva family before his death, and had been monitoring them for a year. The boy’s mother had also repeatedly sought help from police.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.